The Met’s Once-in-a-Lifetime Michelangelo Exhibition Attracted 700,000 Visitors, More Than Alexander McQueen

It became the 10th most-attended show in the museum's history.

Michelangelo Buonarroti Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto); Studies for the Libyan Sibyl and a small Sketch for a Seated Figure (verso), (c. 1510–11). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition of Michelangelo’s drawings was a once-in-a-lifetime event—and the public came out in droves to see it. To be exact, 702,516 visitors attended “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer,” making it the 10th most-visited show in the New York museum’s history.

The Met stayed open a few extra hours yesterday—until 9 pm—to let in a final wave of visitors before ending the show’s three-month run. It is now also the most visited drawings show the museum has ever held.

The Renaissance draftsman beat out “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” (2011) by about 41,000 visitors, though it trails ”Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” (2010) by 740.

Still ranking supreme are shows from decades ago: “Treasures of Tutankhamen” (1978–79) with 1.4 million attendees; “Mona Lisa” (1963) with 1 million; and “The Vatican Collections” (1983) with 896,743. (The various durations of shows effect these figures, however, as some are open longer than others, while museum hours are also not necessarily fixed).

“We are delighted that more than 700,000 people from around the world experienced first-hand the towering genius of Michelangelo through this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition,” said Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of the Met.

The show displayed more than 200 works drawn from 50 institutions and private collectors. Many loans were secured years in advance, particularly for those drawings that are 500 or more years old. Lending institutions had to implement rest periods for these works, which are so fragile they must be stored in the dark.

“Eight years in the making,” Weiss said, “the show was a comprehensive and breathtaking reexamination of a luminary of Renaissance art, and marks the first time a collection of this magnitude has been united in one place.”

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